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‘If you use us, don’t abuse us’ – hospital staff see rise in physical assaults

‘If you use us, don’t abuse us’ – hospital staff see rise in physical assaults

Doctors and nurses working for Epsom and St Helier are issuing a plea to all those who use the hospitals and community services to be respectful of staff, after new figures show a rise in the number of physical assaults against team members. 

During the financial year of 2018-19, 72 members of Epsom and St Helier staff were physically assaulted, compared to 59 in 2017-18. 

Dr Ruth Charlton, Joint Medical Director and Deputy Chief Executive, said: “We understand that people who need our care are often in pain and are going through something very worrying and stressful, and because of that, tensions can sometimes run high. However, there is simply no excuse for verbal or physical abuse against our staff, who are just trying to do their job.”

Chief Executive Daniel Elkeles, said: “Our staff work incredibly hard to care for people in their hour of need, and to have to endure physical attacks and violent outbursts while they do so is something we cannot accept.

“Every single member of the Epsom and St Helier team deserves to feel safe at work, and it is so disheartening that a very small minority of patients and visitors think it’s acceptable to verbally or physically assault our staff.

“We do as much as we can to help protect our staff from violence and aggression, including having a security team onsite at each hospital, 24-hours-a day, and offering all staff special training on how to manage difficult situations. Ultimately though, the only people who can really stop these incidents are the people who commit them.”

In the hospital’s A&E departments, physical and verbal abuse is, sadly, a regular occurrence for staff. Louise Tiernan, Deputy Head of Nursing in A&E, said: “No-one should feel scared of coming to work, but sadly for us, that is a reality we sometimes have to face.

“We have an amazing team who are really good at de-escalating difficult situations and calming people down, but sometimes the behaviour of others is out of our hands. We know that waiting in A&E can be frustrating for people, but if you do find yourself in that situation, please come and speak to a member of staff before it gets out of hand – we will quite happily explain what’s happening, and there’s often a very good reason why you are waiting to be seen, such as a patient in a life threatening condition being cared for behind the scenes.

“We all do the very best job we can, often in difficult circumstances – please bear that in mind when you come for treatment with us, and remember – if you want to use us, don’t abuse us.”

Daniel added: “The Trust has a zero tolerance policy against any kind of abusive or violent behaviour towards staff and we will not hesitate in contacting our on-site security team or the police as soon as it is necessary. Assaults on staff are never, ever justifiable and we will do everything we can to prevent them, including pushing for a criminal conviction.”

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